Problems for Law Firms Hiring Law Students

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CALI’s Pre-Law Blog posted a humorous video that raises some interesting questions about the law school on-campus interview (OCI) process. You can view the video here:

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(Source: More on OCI/Law Firm Recruiting.)

Is Some Dishonesty Okay?

The video questions the value of OCI to employers. For example, the video shows the interviewee (law student) giving the answers that she assumes the interviewer (law firm partner) wants to hear.

While that seems dishonest at first glance, is it unrealistic? In today’s job market, it seems like over 90% of law students that attend a law school below Tier 1 cannot get a job at a large firm, so they will probably earn $40,000 to $70,000 their first year.

(As a side note, that may seem like a lot until you consider that many of these law students 1) have over $100,000 in loans and 2) may have other expenses like homes and children. It’s especially tough for a single-income household to pay the bills and school loans when earning $45,000 a year.)

Many law students won’t find a law job at all. This could be because of their grades, their personality, or merely the fact that there are far more graduating law students than law job openings. Law schools continue to graduate more law students than can be absorbed by law firms.

In short, competition for good paying legal jobs is high, and a law student needs to find a job that will pay the bills upon graduation. Thus, law students are very motivated to find a job that will pay the bills, even if it’s not the exact type of legal work the law students wanted to do. Law students will compromise and take a job that moderately interests them rather than have no job at all.

So a law student might easily tell a job interviewer, “yes, real estate litigation is one of my greatest interests” to obtain a real estate litigation job, when in actuality, the student is only moderately interested in real estate litigation, but would take the job if no other offers come her way.

Are Partners Dishonest?

law school job interviews for law studentsI realize law firms would prefer a candidate who is most passionate about the area of law for which they are hiring, but maybe that is an unrealistic desire. Similarly, a partner doing the interviewing is going to put on a good front for the law student, emphasizing the firm’s “work-life balance,” great work environment, etc., even though the partner knows that associates in her firm work 14 hours a day, the firm’s staff is frustrated, and the firm has other problems.

Bad Interview Questions

I especially hate when an OCI interviewer asks law students to name their weaknesses. Nobody in their right mind is going to start listing off their weaknesses: “I am sometimes late, not very organized, gossip about my coworkers, get annoyed easily, don’t like to be told what to do, like to surf the web at work” etc. No, instead we are forced to pick one of the many “correct” answers:

  • I am a perfectionist and worry about every little detail.
  • I work too much and it frustrates my family and friends.
  • When I get started on a project I get fixated on it and don’t want to give it up.
  • My friends say I am way too organized, but I guess I feel it helps me stay on top of multiple responsibilities.

Conclusion

I’m not suggesting all law students are dishonest in the interview process. Rather, the point is that CALI’s Pre-Law Blog has raised some important questions about the OCI interview process—and law hiring in general—in an era where there are far more law students than there are law jobs, and only the largest firms pay enough for law students to easily cover their bills.

As a result, many law students take jobs that they dislike, merely because that is the only job they could find. That new associate is likely to leave the firm as soon as a better job comes around.

Is there anything that can be done about this problem? Law firms have an interest in answering this question so they can discontinue the routine of hiring new associates, training them in, and then having to look for a replacement after 1-3 years when the associate moves on to the position she really wanted in the beginning.


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6 Responses to “Problems for Law Firms Hiring Law Students”

  1. Ann K. Levine, Esq. Says:

    You know what’s crazy? As someone who worked for firms of all sizes, I can say that none of what’s being asked is what the firms really care about. What they really care about is what business you can bring in, how many hours you’re going to bill, and whether they like you enough to spent 2100 hrs/year with you. Being a bright person helps. The questions should be more honest.
    Also, do remember that there are lots of opportunities that aren’t with firms where you can be a lawyer earning a decent salary with great -and real- quality of life benefits. You can also work for yourself.

  2. Law School Editor Says:

    Ann:

    Your comment about what law firms are looking for is interesting—and valuable coming from someone who has been in law firms of all sizes.

    I agree that there are many non-law jobs with better compensation and work-life balance.

    Thanks for your input.

  3. Ann K. Levine, Esq. Says:

    I hope you know I meant law jobs with better work/life balance. Firm life isn’t the only way to be a lawyer. And it can be a great life for a lot of people (my husband them) but it’s not the only -or best- option.

  4. Austin Says:

    Thanks once again for the comment.

    And what’s with this authentication’s question?

    “AUTHENTICATION: What is 11 minus 10?”

    Didn’t we go to law school to avoid these math questions? :-)

  5. lawjobspipeline.com Blog | The Law Jobs Newswire - From The People Who Bring You LawFuel Says:

    [...] Law School Blog�referred to a humorous video prepared reportedly by a group of NYU students and carried on [...]

  6. Craig Taflin Says:

    Dear Editor:

    As a recent graduate of law school, I have gone through the interviewing process and became sooo frustrated with the process that I decided to try to do something about it. Using my joint, JD/MBA, I started a company with a few legal entrepreneurs that also saw the problems outlined in the video and the article. I am very curious as to what you think of our attempts to change the process.

    There are various levels to the current problem of recruiting law school students. First, law firms are forced to rely too heavily on grades, law school, and law school rank for the initial screening to choose which candidates to interview. If the law school student attends a school where the law firm does not recruit, that student has “basically” no shot at an interview. Second, law firms insist on attempting to interview students in person. During this interview, the law firm and the law student try their best to tell the other part exactly what they feel the other party wants to hear.

    I have been researching this problem for over a year and a half with my partners and we believe that we have come up with a better process.. The name of our business is streamingplacements (www.streamingplacements.com). To solve problem one, we empower students to create a personal profile that consists of a 30-60 second video clip that allows students to “tell the law firm about themselves” in a way that can not be done through the traditional resume or cover letter. As part of the profile, the recruiter can watch the video while he or she is reviewing the students resume, cover letter, and writing samples. The student can also share their profile with their career counselor, friends, and families before sending it to employers.

    The second step allows a law firms and law students to be able to interview without any travel. Our Virtual interviewing, allows ANY law firm to type in questions for ANY student to answer. Once the questions are asked, the student sits in front of a webcam and answers them as if he or she was at a real interview. Then the law firm can review the interview when it is convenient for the lawyer.

    This process allows law firms to interview qualified students who might not attend a law school where the law firm conducts On-campus interviewings.

    I would greatly appreciate any feedback that you or your readers would have on this new process.

    thank you!!

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